On April 4, 1968, I was riding in a car with a couple of friends going to get a cup of coffee at Walls Dairy in East Hampton, Ct. It was starting to get dark, and as we approached the intersection of N. Maple St. and W. High St., we saw someone in the middle of the road. He looked distraught and angry. He was pacing back and forth and appeared to be talking. We slowed down, for in order to go past we would have had to go out of our lane to do so. I then recognized him and said “ Stop and let me out. It’s Craig.” He not only appeared to be emotionally hurting, but angry. He wanted to release some of his justified anger on the first person who might yell at him to get out of the middle of the road. I walked up to him and put my hand on his shoulder. His eyes were filled with rage, but when he saw me he quieted a bit. I asked him what was wrong. He replied, “They killed Dr. King.”
I knew what the word “they” meant. I asked him to walk with me to the side of the road and we then walked down the back road to Wall’s Dairy while we talked. No matter how bad I felt, or how bad I felt for him, there was no way I could truly feel the depth of his pain. I am white and Craig was a black man. But we were friends, and there was a degree of trust between us. We talked for quite awhile and shared stories. I asked him to come with me and get a cup of coffee, but he said he just wanted to go home. I gave him a hug at a point in my life when guys didn’t hug other guys. I so felt his anguish. We always remained friends and he was by my house many times for poker night.
I realized the importance of Dr. King ~ not because of what I read, or watching the news, or especially from adults in my early formative years ~ but from my interest in this good man. I had heard him speak on TV, but in actuality I may have heard but didn’t understand the depth and significance of what he was really saying. My best friend before moving to East Hampton, Ct from N. Kingstown, RI was Kenny. A black man. At the time it didn’t set well with my father. But he was my friend so end of story. It was often Kenny, Dana, JB and I together and we were more than just friends. We were brothers. My family came to love him. And when Kenny and I got in a fight once, he gave me quite a black eye and I cut his lip. Thought he’d be mad at me for a time. But he went by my house, unbeknownst to me, and talked with my mom, telling her we had a fight and he gave me a shiner. He figured they’d obviously see it and wonder what fight I got into this time. She answered him that if he felt he had to hit me, then I obviously deserved it! Kenny was part of the family.
It was through Kenny that I truly learned about Dr. King. I was standing in his living room and his parents were watching a clip on the news of a speech Dr. King had given. Though I had heard Dr. King before, this was the first time I actually heard him where it resonated into the center of me. I listened to Kenny’s dad speak over Dr. King’s words. I felt, as much as I could, how his heart was touched. The hope that was in him for things to change and get better. This was the day I really first heard and listened to Dr. King. I saw years of pain visible on the face of Kenny’s dad and saw tears in his eyes. Kenny’s mom sat quietly and nodded her agreement periodically. I started to see and learn. Prior to that day, I was just a bystander. Some head knowledge, but no heart knowledge. I’m still trying to learn.
The world is coming unraveled and all people of good conscience, especially those who say they’ve given their heart to Christ, must take stock of where we are at this point in our lives and in this country. Hate is becoming more insidious. People try to disguise it as pointing out what is wrong with a particular person, ethnic group, race, sex and so on, but it is an evil that is here to rob, kill, and destroy. Do not be taken in by these lies. Yes, there is wrong everywhere, but remedying this starts with each one of us. No one can opt out. Racism is rampant and growing. You can listen to pundits saying it is not, but they are wrong and often part of the problem. Open your spiritual eyes and ears. Take a serious look around. Be a part of the solution. It’s a heart issue. This is not in Christ’s heart. Light dispels darkness.